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“Ukrainian people hate the war,” Ukrainian family reflects on one year of war in their home country

Lilia Levina D'Hernandez
Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 19:35:38-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Some Ukrainians are still defending their country, while others are adapting to life outside of their home.

For some that includes right here in the Hoosier state.

57-year-old, Lilia Levina D’Hernandez arrived in Indy just four months ago; her mother 83-year-old Lilia Berova arrived in June; and her daughter 35-year-old Krystina Benites-Levina arrived in April.

They’re all from Kharkiv, “Second largest city of Ukraine. It used to be the capitol,” said Hernandez.

The family is fluent in three languages, but English is new to them. Bervoa said, “she loves the Ukrainian language, but she also speaks Russian.”

Anchor Megan Shinn spoke with the family with the help of, Mila Vilesova, who teaches English at Christel House DORS.

One year after the war started in Ukraine, this brave family shared their story about leaving their home because of the war for the first time.

“Nobody could expect that something like this would happen,” said Berova.

Vilesova said, “They lived in an apartment building which was shaped in the letter ‘L’, and there was a daycare right in the middle of it. So, the daycare was bombed, unfortunately.”

Through tears Benites-Levina said, “It’s just painful it hurts.”

"And in spite of everything, people work together, there are a lot of volunteers that help people,” Bervoa said.

Bervoa said the hardest part is that she still remembers positive times with Russian friends in Ukraine and the loss Russians experienced too.

“Everybody was living well together in peace,” said Bervoa. She pointed out that the destruction from war in Ukraine killed Russians too. “About sixty-precent of people that lived in Kharkiv are Russians,” she said.

The family said they have no idea if bombs destroyed their old home. Hernandez said, “Now they came here, and they have to begin the new life which is really hard to do,” Hernandez said.

"You don’t really have anything,” Bervoa said.

However, they are grateful that they still have each other, in a country that brings opportunity.

While in Indy, Benites-Levina will undergo two surgeries. Her mother, Hernandez, was pregnant when another global catastrophe happened, in the late 1980’s. “That was after the explosion of the Chernobyl atom station,” Hernandez said.

As a result, Benites-Levina was born with aches and pains, she said “her bones hurt, so it hurts to sit and to lay and to move around.”

Even with the nuclear explosion then and war now, this family focuses on the future.

“They try to be useful to the country as well,” said Hernandez.

She said she’s a pianist, musicologist, and taught music while in Ukraine. Hernandez said, “(she took students to) festivals, concerts, international as well.”

Now the music she plays at home brings healing and hugs on a day that marks a year’s worth of turmoil to their homeland.

“These are tears of happiness because of how people are. They couldn’t expect people would treat them so well,” said Bervoa. She said she wants to send a “huge thanks to the United States of America for welcoming them and all of the Ukrainian’s here for the support that they get.”

“Ukrainian people hate the war,” said Bervoa, “We are so grateful for the United States, and nobody expected us.”

Right now, Benites-Levina is taking virtual English classes. Hernandez is looking for a job to teach music here in Indy and she says they still have relatives in Ukraine who couldn’t leave the country, but they talk to every day.

According to the Operational Data Portal, Ukrainian Refugee Station, more than 8-million refugees from Ukraine are recorded across Europe.

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